Friday, August 1, 2014

Gift Dilemma

[sari]“They gave gifts of clothes to all who were entitled. All the guests, the female attendants, and the wives of the gurus received gifts.” (Janaki Mangala, 191)

nēgacāra kari dīnha sabahiṁ pahirāvani | 
samadhī sakala su'āsini guratiya pāvani ||

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Here the gift-giving at a famous marriage reception continues. There is no consumption of alcoholic beverages. There is no first dance for the married couple. The guests get the top priority, and they are not going to leave empty-handed. The Supreme Lord is making sure of that. The wives in His royal family are making sure everyone who deserves to get a gift gets one. No one is shut out, and so in the spiritual world the reciprocation of love continues, without end to the exchanges.

Imagine this scenario. Someone’s invited you to their wedding. You don’t mind going. They’re a good friend. Amidst all the other planning you have to do, there is the gift. You ask yourself a series of questions:

“How much should I give? Well, how much did they give me for my wedding? I am travelling quite a ways for theirs. I’ve heard that if you have to spend for travel, you can give a smaller gift. What about the people who can’t attend? I’ve heard that if you’re invited, you’re compelled to get a gift. If you can’t make it then you have to give something at least. Then I’ve heard the stories of people basing their gift on their assessment of the wedding hall. If it’s a nice place, you’re supposed to give more. You’re supposed to figure out how much the couple paid per person, and then match that in your cash donation. I’ve heard of people going to the wedding reception with a blank check in their pocket. Upon surveying the situation, they then fill in an appropriate amount. I must say, this is all too much for me to handle.”

[cash gift]In Ayodhya a long time ago, the wedding reception was for the king’s four sons. The royal family had wealth, so they didn’t require anything. Still, everyone in the town celebrated to the best of their ability. There were no misers, including the hosts. And so everyone went away with gifts. In the traditional way, the women were the managers of finance in the homes. When a gift needed to be given, they would pick something and give it away.

Here the three wives of King Dasharatha are continuing to give away gifts. They gave clothes to all who were entitled. Anyone who came up to them received something nice. Who doesn’t appreciate a nice shirt? What woman wouldn’t want a beautiful sari to wear to the next important function? These were simpler times, so clothes as a gift were well appreciated.

In the royal court, there were female attendants and wives to the gurus. They received gifts as well. One may wonder how the royal family could afford to make such donations. Rama is the Supreme Lord in an incarnation form. He is the husband of the goddess of fortune, Lakshmi Devi. On earth He wed Lakshmi in her most beautiful form of Sita. This wedding took place in Janakpur, the land of Sita’s father Janaka.

[Sita and Rama]Here Ayodhya welcomes Sita and Rama. Rama’s three younger brothers were married simultaneously, so the festivities are for four marriages. Where there is the goddess of fortune, there is an endless supply of wealth, jewels, clothes, gold and cows. There is no shortage if Lakshmi Devi is in a favorable mood. When she is with her husband, she profusely distributes charity to those dear to Him. The special qualification of the residents of Ayodhya is that they were all dear to Rama. He loved every one of them, and so it is not surprising that everyone received gifts to their heart’s content.

Bhakti-yoga is unique in that the service continues regardless of what gifts are or aren’t received. Whether one gets a lot or very little from the Supreme Lord, they continue in their devotion. The greatest gift in life is to have a best friend to whom kind words can be offered day after day. That best friend can only be God, since He lives forever in His transcendental form. His land of Ayodhya also remains forever manifest, including the good work of His closest associates.

The gift dilemma for the devotee is how to offer more and more service, and God’s dilemma is how to repay that life dedicated to service to Him. This is a good problem for each to have, and they take turns in topping one another. One second the devotee does something amazing and the next Rama replies with an amazing act of His own. The sparring continues, with everyone winning. This happens only in spiritual life, entry to which is very easy in this age. One can open the door to transcendental bliss through just the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

One side many a gift giving,

The other in service continuing.

 

All obeisances to Sita and Rama made,

Difficult for them such love to repay.

 

Whether a lot or very little to come,

Deviation from devotional path to be none.

 

To reward the bhaktas the desire still,

Thus air of spiritual world with love filled.

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